Diablo III’s Loot System = Complicated

GamaSutra has posted an article about Diablo III’s loot system. It’s a decent read, and they have some fresh quotes from Kevin Martens, but there’s not really any new info to be had. Just general info stuff on how everything must be fine-tuned, etc. A quote.

Behind the graphics, character art and level design of Diablo III is this very loot drop system that requires years of testing. So how difficult is it to strike the perfect balance of loot drops, challenge, and reward to keep the player endlessly striving towards greater in-game progress?

“That balance is honestly the main reason why it takes so long to make a proper Diablo game,” Kevin Martens, lead content designer for Diablo III told Gamasutra.

“The bulk of our work goes into tuning the game’s loot drop system,” he said. “There are so many parameters to alter, it can be dizzying. Even the slightest increase to gold drop can suddenly change everything in the game. Even a .01 percentage change in loot drop can drastically change the balance between player challenge and reward.”

Knowing that the margin of failure can be so high, making a game expected to sell millions at launch alone is a high-pressure situation. “[Keeping fans happy is] absolutely one thing we always have to keep in mind when we tweak anything in the game, because we have to normalize those slight changes to over a million players, or even 5 million players.”

The loot is indeed one of the most important long term game features; people don’t compare Diablo 2 to a slot machine for nothing. That said, citing them as the main reason for the long dev time seem a stretch. Itemization is one of the last thing the developers work on, since all the other systems need to be set before they can properly balance loot. Look at the ongoing changes to skill runes, the way Artisans recently went from 5 levels to 10, and all the items with their “temporary stats subject to change” warnings on the Blizzard website. If they spend anywhere near as long balancing item modifiers and drop rates as they did building the main game content, we won’t be playing this thing before 2015.

(Note to D3 developers: that was not a request!)

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12 thoughts on “Diablo III’s Loot System = Complicated

  1. I’d like to point out that “Loot System balancing” can easily be seen as an ongoing process.

    It’s not like, since (supposedly) not every possible item affix is in the game yet, balancing the drops can’t be an activity the devs have been working on from the very get go. Simply put, as they add more kind of items and affixes to the game, the tuning process has to be tweaked accordingly.

    As an example, I’m pretty sure they were already working on how much stuff had to drop in the build demonstrated during the WWI, when the game was released. Of course they iterated on that as they did with anything else in the game, I’m assuming.

    • The WWI 2008 demo is a bad example, because according to the devs, in that demo every item dropped at a fixed place, there was no randomization at all.
      Also, italic font rulez ya all!

  2. >Even a .01 percentage change in loot drop can drastically change the balance between player challenge and reward.”
    sounds a bit like bullshit.

    • If you think about how many items are in a game like Diablo and individually how low are their chances to drop, you’ll realize that it’s not bull**** at all.

    • well imagine a zod has  drop chance of 0.01 percent :p thats a ZOD every 10000 Monster @ hellish
      that would litterally inflate value of ZOD to dirt level – dont get me wrong it would still be a very useful item to use but no one would pay much for it – it would be a given cookie cutter rune

  3. well i disagree – you can throw out a fairly accurate drop / power ratio without discussing the itemization itself.
    i assume there will be a “yet” hidden item budget which determines how powerful an item is. ofc that says nothing about the power it yields to a particular specc – however stats are more streamlined now – there wont be broken affix like Crushing blow which justifys the use of an item even though the rest of the stats are fairly crappy . I predict that items itself will barely grant any kind of exponential growth with itself – i rather expect the affixes / attributes to scale very linear.
    only the specc choice in combination with item choice will yield significant multiplicative increases. (or not depending on how good your speec / item choice is)
    i think thats a reasonable assumption to make – the items this far released have no crazy stats – and we also know rune effects – so basically there will no longer be cheap cookie cutter items with particular amounts of lifeleach / FCR / Crushing Blow ) – that means that you can distinguish good items very fast from bad items – all of this is in favor of the RMAH – call me cycnic but i think that many of those streamlining decisions have been made in favor of the RMAH

  4. Keep in mind that with itemization and modifiers, they have to decide where stuff drops.  If we can avoid the main monster counter parts in DIII being farmed as compared to DII, such as Mephisto, Pindleskin, and the Cow King, we’ll be starting ahead of the curve.

    Also I wouldn’t be extrapolating what people see in the Beta-Demo to final loot drops.  People will kill Skele King a handful of time in normal mode, which makes no sense to have 0.00005% drop rate on a unique.  However, players might be killing him 5x a night in abyss, for months or years on end.  What is the correct drop rate there?

  5. (Note to D3 developers: that was not a request!)

    Great. Thanks Flux. Time to go into hibernation again…

  6. Nice call Flux. They need to make the items better already, enough excuses with “these are temporary”. They need to take the feed back and fix the current item stats, which suck. They did it with the obsidian ring of zodiac thankfully which is good, but needs to apply across the board. GW

  7. Yet another gaming website that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Flux sucks a whole very lot much*, but “GameSutra”‘s statements are just pitifully uninformed.

    *sarcastic tone

  8. I’m sorry but we ain’t seeign enough legendary items drop and we haven’t profited enough last month, soo lets up that legendary drop 10% more so we can collect more fees. Yeah it is complicated !

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